Friday, December 28, 2012

The Cautionary Instruction: Final look at the death penalty in 2012

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/Ipso Facto
December 28, 2012

There were 43 executions nationwide this year, the exact same number of executions carried out in 2011. Thirty-three states and the federal government have the death penalty yet only nine states carried out executions in 2012.

In fact, more than half of the states (29) in the country either do not have the death penalty or have not carried out an execution in the last five years.

Pennsylvania is one of those states. The death penalty has been on the books in Pennsylvania for more than 30 years, and only three men have been executed.

Although executions are few in Pennsylvania, the commonwealth continues to crank-out death sentences. In 2012, seven offenders were sentenced to death in Pennsylvania -- behind only Florida, California and Texas.

Every execution has a story. Here are four from 2012, in no particular order.

Execution No. 35: Twenty-six years ago, Garry Allen shot the mother of his two children as she went to pick up their sons at daycare.

When police found Allen afterward, he tried to make the officer shoot himself with his own weapon. But in the scuffle, Allen was shot in the head and lost his eye. Defense attorneys had argued the shot resulted in brain damage making Allen mentally incompetent and ineligible for the death penalty. None of the various courts who reviewed the case agreed.

Execution No. 40: Preston Hughes was executed on November 15, 2012 for fatally stabbing a teenage girl and her toddler cousin on a dirt road in southwest Texas more than two decades ago.
Just before he received the lethal injection, Hughes turned toward his mother and sister in the adjoining witness room. He said, "You know I'm innocent, and I love you both … Please continue to fight for my innocence even though I'm gone."

Execution No. 13: Serial killer David Alan Gore was put to death on April 12, 2012 in Florida for the murder of one of his victims. He murdered six women, four teenagers and two adults.
Moments before his execution he addressed the family of one victim, "I want to say to the Elliott family, I am sorry for the death of your daughter. I am not the man I was back then, 28 years ago. I am a Christian. Christ lives within me. I hope you all can find peace today."

Execution No. 27: Michael Hooper was executed on August 14, 2012 in Oklahoma for killing a mother and her two children, ages five and three. The victims were in Hooper’s pickup when he placed a 9 mm pistol under the woman’s chin and shot her. He then shot the children to prevent them from being witnesses. Strapped to a hospital gurney with intravenous tubes inserted into each of his arms -- as the other death-row inmates banged their cell doors in a tribute to him -- Hooper said, "I just want to thank God for such an exuberant send-off."

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